Today is marked as Jubilate Sunday in the ecclesiastical calendar of many Christian traditions. I get a little miffed that on many sites – including Wikipedia – it is called the 3rd Sunday AFTER Easter. Can’t these people count? It is the 3rd Sunday OF Easter (or the 2nd Sunday after Easter). The full Easter season stretches from the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday to Pentecost – a pretty long haul that usually starts in February and ends in late May or early June. The Christmas and Easter seasons flow into one another with a short break between them of a couple of weeks (longer if Easter is late). By comparison, the time from Pentecost to Advent (beginning the Christmas season again), is very long, usually around 6 months. Technically, the time between major seasons is known as ordinary time, and because the liturgical color for ordinary time is green the period from Pentecost to Advent is colloquially known (mostly by clergy), as the meadow period – when all the lessons of Christmas and Easter are put into practice (you know: grow a meadow and make hay). But now we are in the period of Easter that in many traditions is a time for rejoicing; but not all, as we shall see.
The third Sunday of Easter is called Jubilate Sunday because in the liturgy of the Catholic Church the first line of the introit for that day’s mass is “Jubilate Deo omnis terra” (“Shout with joy to God, all the earth”) from Psalm 66:65.
The liturgy for this day in the Catholic and Anglican traditions, and for the next two Sundays, continues to celebrate the Easter resurrection.
The Germanic Lutheran tradition was at one time rather more dour. Johann Sebastian Bach composed three church cantatas for the occasion, based on the prescribed readings: the epistle reading, 1 Peter 2:11–20, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man”, and the gospel reading, John 16:16–23, the announcement of the Second Coming from the Farewell discourse:
20 Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. 21 A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.
Bach’s three cantatas for this day are:
Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, BWV 12, 22 April 1714
Ihr werdet weinen und heulen, BWV 103, 22 April 1725
Wir müssen durch viel Trübsal, BWV 146, 12 May 1726 or 18 April 1728
I’ll focus on Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen (Weeping, Lamenting, Worrying, Fearing). Bach composed the cantata in Weimar when he was Konzertmeister at the ducal court, where he had an opportunity to work with a large, well-funded contingent of professional musicians. He led the first performance in the Schlosskirche, the court chapel of the Schloss in Weimar. His job called for the performance of a new church cantata each month. He composed Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen as the second cantata in the series, on a text probably written by court poet Salomon Franck. The work is structured in seven movements, an instrumental Sinfonia, a choral passacaglia, a recitative on a Bible quotation, three arias and, as the closing chorale, the last stanza from Samuel Rodigast’s hymn “Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan” (“What God does is well done”) (1674). The cantata is scored for three vocal soloists, a four-part choir, trumpet, oboe, bassoon, two violins, two violas, and basso continuo.
Bach reworked the first section of the first chorus to form the Crucifixus movement of the Credo in his Mass in B minor. Franz Liszt based extended keyboard compositions on the same material. Here is the cantata on Baroque instruments and with vocalists adopting a Baroque style:
Because of the Lutheran tradition there’s not a lot of “Jubilate” here. The music is wonderful, of course, but as a pastor I find the sentiments misplaced. I understand the point. After the resurrection, Jesus